Published Dec 13, 2013Thank the sweet Lord he put the flame on it.
After enduring a lengthy -10 C (add some minus for wind chill) lineup that wound around the block, fans sought warmth in Toronto's (ironically named) Kool Haus, bypassing coat-check to experience the heat that is a Charles Bradley revue. It was precisely what the Doctor of Love ordered.
Bradley's Extraordinaires eased into the proceedings with a couple instrumentals at about 10:45pm, providing a little kindling before the heat blast that would be the 65-year-old soul man.
After a proper James Brown-style intro that amped up a throng that shouldn't have had to show ID to get a wristband, the Screamin' Eagle of Soul took centre stage and leaned into a sizzler of a show, oscillating between heart-wrenching love/torture songs and funky shakers in a setlist that leaned more towards Bradley's latest, 2013's rangier Victim of Love, than 2011's No Time for Dreaming.
Sure, the volume could have been ratcheted up a notch, and the acoustics in the Haus never favour the listeners on the sides, but who wants to nitpick when 30 bucks is all you pay to have your soul replenished?
The Extraordinaires — bass, guitar, drums, saxophone, trumpet and keys — keep the rhythms flawlessly in-pocket, but it's of course the city-hardened Bradley who owns the spotlight, rocking an Afro and glitter and gold and robes. Dressed like the illegitimate child of Otis Redding and Ravish Rick Rude, Bradley pours every drop of gasoline he has onto the fire. From the very back, you can make out his wrinkles and sweat drops.
During an inspired "You Put the Flame On It," Bradley broke beyond his trademark eagle wings dance move to get into some footwork, ending with the splits. He left the stage briefly afterward, causing at least one party person to wonder if the senior citizen had pulled his groin, only to return in a shiny new outfit and keep the groove rolling toward the 90-minute mark.
The Daptone treasure's Neil Young cover, "Heart of Gold," was spot-on, but where his voice — all sandpaper and sorrow — really shines are on the slow jams. "Crying in the Chapel" had grown men scrounging for panties to first wipe their tears with and then throw on stage.
For his encore, Bradley was joined by openers Jay Vons — decked out in Santa toques — and ripped his seasonal carol, "Every Day Is Christmas (When I'm Lovin' You)." Oh, yeah, he also did The Robot at one point.
If Charles Bradley comes to your town, go. Regardless of the weather.